Most people prefer listening to the music they grew up with. Being a teenager in the seventies, I knew every James Taylor song by heart. I would listen to the same recording again and again. I could anticipate the intro of the next song in the silence between the tracks. When the last song came around it made me sad, but then it began again from the beginning and everything was alright. I hoped for another James Taylor song to add to my list of favorites but it never came.
With the exception of Paul McCartney, whose career, list of accomplishments and longevity are unparalleled, most writers tend to produce their best work early then slowly fade away. Do these once upon a time writers stop producing new material because their creative well dried up? If so, what would turn an oasis into a desert, especially in the later years when there is so much more to say?
If creativity is a byproduct of conflict and struggle, then how do the McCartneys of the world continue to write and produce so much new material after receiving every known accolade? It would seem the notion of the starving artist does not hold true in the long term. So how does someone stay motivated to create work comparable to the peak years later in life, especially if there is no fan base to feed their passion?
Muse (myo̅o̅z) n. 1. Greek Mythology – Any of the nine daughters of Mnemosyne and Zeus, each of whom presided over a different art or science. 2. Muse a. A guiding spirit. b. A source of inspiration. 3. Muse A poet.
Etymology: The name of Mnemosyne is the Greek noun mnēmosunē “memory,” which comes from mnā-, an extended form of the Greek and Indo-European root men-, “to think.” (I wouldn’t normally include a word history, but the Greek root word men meaning to think seemed too profoundly dubious to omit.)
Historically, mankind has given credit to spiritual forces for its inspiration. Even the root of the word inspiration is spirit. It is strategic for artists to credit a muse for an idea in spite of the fact the nine daughters of Zeus and Mnemosyne are mythological. Giving credit to something which does not exist imparts a false gesture of humility which by default deflects credit back to the artist. It also implies the artist is special and unique for being chosen by something supernaturally. No wonder so many do it.
We all have Ideas. They are often triggered by situation or necessity, but there are also times ideas hit us for no reason. When this happens we say, “It just came to me” – as if from nowhere. The expression, “It came to me out of the blue,” means sky, which, by extension, is heaven which presumes a Godly origin.
It is odd no objection is provoked when referencing God in the expression, “God forbid”, but the words “Glory to God” to many remain detestable. Why is it universally acceptable to say, “out of the blue” and so offensive to say, “God” since they mean the same thing?
How a person manages praise says a lot about them. The desire for credit one has corresponds to the level of their focus on social status. Someone who gives credit to God rejects the very currency social standing is built upon. A person mindful of rejecting undue credit inhibits the development of an inflated ego. Individuals who give others undue credit do so to solidify their place of approval in the eyes of their public. Crediting God, however, has an adverse effect in a social setting because it takes away someone else’s credit by association.
There are many things which sway our opinion as to recognizing and prioritizing the value of something (especially ourselves), not the least of which is our language. There are as many idioms in the English language as people can think to dream up. Since much of language should not be taken literally it is not surprising we are often off the mark when giving and receiving information.
When someone says they have an idea it implies ownership. This directs any significance toward the person having the idea and away from the idea itself. It would be more appropriate to use the words got, received or even stumbled upon which places the focus on the idea and leaves room for the possibility the idea may have originated elsewhere.
How we use speech influences how we think. The English language emphasizes the subject of a sentence by positioning it before the direct object. Imbedded in this language practice is a major factor why a person could believe himself to have preceded the idea – as if a question could precede the answer.
If the early bird gets the worm, receiving an idea is about positioning. The people who get rained on are the ones who happen to be outside during a storm. But if we didn’t create the worm or the rain (i.e. compensation), why do we take credit for them? The only thing we have a right with which to credit ourselves is the self-discipline necessary to position ourselves at a place in time. As a writer, most everything I’ve written I owe to something that preceded me. I can, however, accept credit for turning off the TV which freed my mind and body for good use.
It is the reasonable service of a man to work, but it is the self-discipline which is a credit to him – not the compensation. Men focus on compensation, even though compensation is the byproduct of self-discipline. When a person’s primary goal is retirement (which is a form of compensation without discipline), a change in self-perception occurs. The servant becomes the master. Unfortunately, a master without a servant produces nothing.
Self-discipline is a derivative of a belief system which can be rooted in either God or man. If the choice to do something is motivated by man’s reward system, the production level range could run the gamut. The added incentive for the success of the materially minded is in believing their accomplishments were achieved in spite of God. Conversely, if a person’s drive and determination is influenced by God, the output will be based on a spiritual reward system in spite of the contention of the fickle nature of man.
Those who have had great ideas were not physically altered by the experience. Their lives will not be prolonged. Even the fame and fortune that can accompany good ideas will not change the genetic or metabolic makeup of an individual. People may be psychologically uplifted by their peers, but no one becomes taller. Ideas do however influence behavior. Things that change the properties of other elements without undergoing change themselves are catalysts.
People are in many ways catalysts. That is not to say a catalyst has no value – to the contrary. Catalysts have great responsibility, though none of which is to accumulate wealth or popularity, patents or copyrights. Catalysts have the power to change the environment (i.e. evil into good; chaos into order; conflict into peace).
We cannot expect peace to manifest itself through putting hope in mankind any more than we can expect change from rubbing two catalysts together. When so much has gone too far, a clue to finding and maintaining peace may be imbedded in the theme of reverse order and backward priorities – It may not lie in what needs to be done, but in what needs to be undone.
If peace is the one thing we will all want in the end, why is it not a priority in the beginning, or even now? Those who have worked in vein to please men may never experience peace. Those who have confused peace for comfort and neutrality will be confounded. Yet there are those who spend their lives striving for the unattainable, enduring unimaginable storms who are laden with it. People at death’s door will trade everything they have for peace and will come up short because they do not understand the order of things. Peace is the compensation for giving credit where credit is due.
The only logical alternative to taking credit is appreciating God. A soul is comprised of spirit, intellect, will, emotion and mind. Adhering to the protection of God’s boundaries insures freedom for the body and spirit. Accepting his authority strengthens the will. Understanding his plan to prosper us focuses emotion. Knowing him improves the intellect. Trusting him brings peace of mind. It stands to reason a soul which fosters a relationship with God is more inclined to prosper as it is more prepared to support ideas when they are revealed. Maintaining a contrite heart with an apparent appreciation of God will assure the raw material of inspired ideas and creativity will continue to flow freely to the end of days – and beyond.
So, why did my prayer for another James Taylor song never get answered? He may have taken undue credit. We all have. He may have satisfied his personal aspirations. That’s a stumbling block most of us will face. But maybe it’s not that complicated. Perhaps one artist’s departure was necessary to make room for a new voice. Maybe it’s our turn to sing and inspire and raise the bar for the next generation.